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Guided by the Wise Woman Ways, Red Moon Herbs creates potent herbal products in small batches using the highest quality fresh plant material that is almost all local and all organically grown or wildcrafted.

Started in 1994 by Corinna Wood and Jessica Godino, Red Moon Herbs has seen many changes over the past 20 years, including incredible growth, two apothecaries, and, most recently, stringent compliance with FDA regulations regarding herbal medicines. In 2012, the directorship was passed to from Corinna Wood to Jeannie DunnThroughout these changes, the focus and mission of the business has remained strong and true: to create safe and effective herbal products for the whole family from local, abundant plants.

The Women's Health and Herbal Medicine Blog

Contemplating a Liver Detox? Read This First

Contemplating a Liver Detox? Read This First

Is it Detox You're After? Or Depth?

Only you know the answer to the question posed above. But don't rush into answering it without letting the relevant organ systems of your body have a say. Culturally, we are in a moment where it is often easier to reach for a heroic seven-day cleansing program of elimination and pleasure denial than it is to peer into the root cause of an issue as something deeper, many-pronged, and not necessarily detox-able. Are those types of cleanses ever necessary? Sure. Sometimes. But what are they avoiding? 

Socially, we have gathered around the now greenwashed ideas of 'clean' eating and 'whole' living as the ultimate good. Are these ideologies bad? No. But they can chip away at the picture of the self as an entity of fully embodied wisdom and paint a picture of the detoxing body pitted against the dirty, chemical-ridden world as bad, unworthy, unclean, or not enough. Which is an idea just as dangerous and demanding as untempered detox itself can be.

Detox has become something of a dirty word in the wise woman tradition, which prefers nourishment over cleansing and supportive sustenance and toning over deprivation and purging (for more on this, see my article Nutritious Nourishment vs. Dirty Detox). This thought follows the model of the body as a sort of self-cleaning oven. And let's be honest, no metaphor for the body (other than perhaps a garden! says the herbalist) is complex or nuanced enough to capture the full reality of the thousands of physiological processes that occur while we sleep and breathe, flow and flounder, consume and excrete.

We contain multitudes. The levels of environmental stressors and the ways in which we experience trauma and stress as inflammation are...dare we say it - unprecedented? And even though we are not (thankfully) entirely responsible for regularly cleaning the gunk of environmental, stress-induced, and food-based toxins out of our system since our body in its wisdom does that largely on its own with appropriate support, there are ways that we can ease and contribute to this process. While it might seem a bit counterintuitive if you've adhered to the model of consistent cleansing, perhaps the best effort we can make towards supporting the body's own detox processes is providing it with richly saturated nutrition so that it has the resources it needs to perform phase I and II detox as effortlessly and beautifully as it was designed to. 

Our biological imperative towards cleansing and purifying the body follows a cyclical, seasonal path. Early spring is traditionally a time for consuming the newly sprouted growth of slightly bitter, chlorophyll-laden herbs which serve to purify and thin the blood and kickstart the sluggish digestion of winter into a new era: clover, cress, chickweed, and wild mustard. Throughout the growing season, these plants become more bitter, chewy, and fibrous, losing their appeal somewhat as other food sources come into fruition. "In the spring, impurities the body has been harboring over the winter can rise. Pathogens dormant within the body during the winter can also rise, causing illness. Spring cleansing of the body forms an important aspect of Southern Folk Medicine, helping thin the blood and ready it for the travails of summer," notes my mentor herbalist Phyllis D. Light.

She speaks of the relationship between herbal medicine and the blood, which is one element we often think of as needing regular cleansing or detoxification. "Blood flows in tune with nature, ebbing and flowing with the seasons. There is a direct correlation between the flow of blood in the body and the flow of sap in trees. In the fall, blood begins to sweeten and get thicker (increase in viscosity) as the weather grows cooler. It sinks downward and pulls inward. Hands and feet endure reduced circulation as the weather chills and blood moves increasingly to the internal organs to keep them warm and nourished. In the spring, blood thins (becomes sour) and begins to rise, moving upward and outward in order to keep the internal organs cooler."

Although new year's day or midwinter is generally a time when many of us with resolutions find ourselves purging all sugar for 30 days or eliminating certain 'cheat' foods that we indulged in over the holidays, midwinter would be a very nontraditional time for cleansing the body as the slow elimination system of the cold season requires deep nourishment and has little access to those new spring greens or warming roots like sassafras and burdock which are considered post-winter purifiers.

Fasting, heroic cleanses, and detox programs may have their place in certain situations where there is severe environmental toxin exposure, the presence of autoimmunity, or certain food sensitivities or allergies (in which case Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride's bone broth-heavy GAPS protocol is my go-to). But often what is needed is less a 'hard reset' and more of a solidification of the nutrient and mineral platform the body has to draw from in the first place. 

Phase I and Phase II Detox

The dual phases of liver detox are multi-faceted. Everything we eat, drink, breathe, or put on our bodies is either water or fat soluble. If it's water soluble, it is excreted by kidneys in phase I detox. If it's fat soluble, it is excreted by feces or kidneys in phase II detox. The goal of the healthy liver is to slow down phase I and speed up phase II and there are many ways to boost the body's ability to do this. 

Phase I detox is supported by many nutritive herbs and foods, particularly those which are good sources of B vitamins, antioxidants, vitamins A, C, and E, and trace mineral selenium (ACES). These constituents help combat free radicals which are generated when the liver breaks down toxic substances. Foods from the brassicaceae plant family - think dark leafy greens like kale and chard as well as broccoli and brussels sprouts - support this transformative process. The herbs that catalyze and support the liver's phase I breakdown process are garlic, onions, turmeric with black pepper, St. John's wort (it does this so well, in fact, that it is this quality of St. John's wort which makes it contraindicated with some pharmaceutical drugs because it clears them out of the liver too quickly), and power-hub ginseng (root/whole plant or leaf). 

Looking to support your liver's take-out-the-trash/recycling-day one? Look to formulas like fire cider or a tonic like Garlic Elixir or Ginseng Elixir. St John's wort or blends which include it, like Sunny Days or Viral Spiral, would also be in this family. 

Phase II detox takes care of any leftovers from the first phase and also processes through most hormones. If there is matter that the liver was unable to breakdown in phase I, it moves it onto phase II. Foods which support phase II detox are rich in healthy proteins, such as beans, lean meats, fish, nuts and seeds, eggs, and milk. Sulfur-rich herbs like garlic and onions play a big part in phase II processing, as does turmeric (with bioavailability enhanced by black pepper). Conversely, the elements and states which slow down phase II processing which we want to avoid include chemical dyes (think red 40 and yellow no. 5), aspirin, mineral deficiencies, and constant exposure to environmental hazards or long-term medication use. 

The herbs that are classically considered blood cleansers actually do improve phase II liver detox by cleaning or purifying the blood: burdock, yellow dock, dandelion, and red clover dried blossom (or extract, available by special request), for example. Beneficial to the liver's second phase of detox are formulas like Deep Roots, an absorbable turmeric and black pepper blend, and blood-detoxifiers like red clover or a formula like Lymph Love (including red clover). 

Both phases of liver detox are deeply supported with minerals like zinc, selenium, and manganese and greatly hindered by mineral deficiency. The primary mineral-rich herbs are one of the most recognizable and immediate ways to support the detox phases. Think nourishing herbal infusions of nettles, oatstraw, red clover, and linden, plus fire cider or mineral-dense vinegars like Three Sisters Vinegar or Zesty Three Sisters Vinegar (which adds garlic to further assist with phase I and II detox). 

Connecting With Your Roots: Herbs and the Liver

If we take a step back and look at the human body and the plant body as two sides of the same holograph, we can find elements of the human digestion and elimination pathways that sync up with the plant's root system. In traditional Chinese medicine, there is a principle of consuming the organ with which one is challenged. For example, those with a troubled heart would eat the heart of an animal in order to strengthen their physical and emotional heart chakra or qi. In southern folk medicine, 

This holy trinity of roots is what we chose to formulate our Deep Roots liver phase I and II elimination support blend: burdock, dandelion, and yellow dock. There is something beyond synergy in the way these three plants (which happen to often grow in the same landscape and sometimes right next to each other) complement each other.

Burdock is specific for aiding the body in digesting those fat soluble elements which are broken down in phase II as well as acting as a prebiotic which enhances beneficial bacteria activity and spurs the whole nutrient assimilation process. Dandelion root is quite possibly the most abundant and full-spectrum liver nourisher on earth. And if we look into its presence on the planet as an indication of its potential use, we can see a relationship between the dandelions furrowing through the grass of almost every country on every continent and the pervasive presence of liver stagnation which has become so unfortunately universal. Yellow dock not only beefs up iron absorption but smooths and benefits intestinal and colon health; its bitter components also act as the liver's greatest catalyst and asset. 

The roots of these cherished field herbs go a long way in helping us humans forge a relationship with our tangled mass of roots, from the stomach to the intestine and the kidneys to the liver and throughout all the phases of our digestion and elimination process. Coming into relationship with roots which have such a pulse on the heart of the earth as they do - quite literally reaching their tendrils down into the depths in search of minerals and nutrients and pulling them up to the surface where we humans can enjoy their benefits when we consume them - can be profound. Love and appreciation for the liver goes a long way in the healing and care for this tireless organ. Listen to the needs of your liver: is it detox that it needs? Or support of its depth, from the depth of the earth?

Five Ways to Understand More About an Herb

Five Ways to Understand More About an Herb

A PSA about learning your herbs and five methods you can use to learn more about an herb with which you're interested in developing a deeper relationship:

1. Organoleptics - this is a fancy long word we herbalists like to use for 'using your senses'. Undoubtedly the oldest and still one of the most reliable ways to learn about herbs is through firsthand experience with the raw plant (or any preparation of it - tea, tincture, oil etc...). How does it smell? What does it taste like? What do you notice about its texture or its appearance and habitat or growth patterns? All of these sensory aspects of the experience of a plant offer clues about its qualities and how it functions in the human body. For example, as a rule, bitter tasting herbs stimulate the production of stomach acid and promote healthy digestion.

Black Elderberries (Sambucus nigra)

2. What's in a name? Many of the most historically valued herbs have common nicknames which point to some of their properties and possible uses. Take, for example, one old moniker for ground ivy (Glechoma hederaceae): 'ale hoof', which refers to its historical use in beer brewing (nowadays, hops is used). A common name for lobelia (Lobelia inflata - pictured in this post) is pukeweed, which indicates that it must be taken in very small drop doses (1-10 drops at a time), otherwise it may lead to nausea and vomiting.

Medieval Book of Herbal Medicinal Remedies

3. Get off the internet. This might seem a little counterintuitive considering where you're reading this little nugget of advice, but the truth is that the online sphere is one of the worst (though at times, also the best) place to learn about herbs. SO much of the information about herbs online is copied and pasted in various forms from questionable material, written by ghostwriters who have no actual familiarity with herbs, or either simply scare tactics or marketing ploys with only the most basic understanding/misunderstanding of an herb's actual characteristics. Pull out your trusty herb books and use the indexes to look up reliable information or head to your library and swoop up some good botanical references.

4. Remember that while we love to teach and share, we are very limited in what we can say and often aren't permitted to tell you what conditions an herb might be used for for legal reasons. Rather than relying on us to offer up wisdom like _____ is good for ____, we challenge y'all to do your own research! As a bonus, any information that you learn on your own about how a plant is used is more likely to stick with you if you research it yourself.

Old Field Lavender Farm

5. While our beloved bestselling herbs like echinacea, elderberry, and arnica are always in style and at this point almost household names in certain circles, a good herbal apothecary is stocked with so much more than these old favorites. Some of our lesser known but highly valued medicinal herbs include treasures like ground ivy, liferoot, cleavers, spilanthes, feverfew, kudzu root, lobelia, pedicularis, poke, Solomon's seal, usnea, wild lettuce, and yellow dock. As a challenge to yourself, pick one lesser known herb per week or month and use the methods above to learn more about it and incorporate into you and your family's medicinal materia medica. You may be surprised at how integral an herb like poke or lobelia becomes to your first aid/self-care kit once you learn how multifaceted and versatile it is.
The Role of Invasive Herbal Remedies: Kudzu, Mimosa, Wild Rose...Plantain? Dandelion?

The Role of Invasive Herbal Remedies: Kudzu, Mimosa, Wild Rose...Plantain? Dandelion?

Within our materia medica of common 'weedy' medicinal plants native to the Appalachian mountains where we are based, you will also find a sprinkling of so-called invasive plants which are not native to this area and at times are seen as resource hogs, taking water, sunlight, and nutrients from our native plants and sometimes depleting their populations or even choking them out. One individual, a professional whose work is to control the populations of non-native plants in our woodlands, recently posed a question to us about the harvesting and use of invasive species such as autumn olive, multiflora rose, and mimosa and how this affects their presence amidst our native plants. It's such a fascinating inquiry and important topic that we wanted to address it here. After all, we eat, sleep, and breathe plants: their future is our future and their health is our health. 

Does the Use of Abundant Herbal Remedies Include Invasive Species?

Increasingly, we are finding the plants in our yards are 'foreigners', invasive species which are sometimes stigmatized and snubbed by native plant lovers. What does the presence of these exotic botanicals mean and how do we deal with their infiltration of populations of other plants that we want to see thrive?

Mimosa Tree (Albizia julibrissin) Flower and Leaf

Mimosa tree flowers (Alibizia julibrissin)

Certain invasive herbs have become quite popular in modern herbal medicine: Japanese knotweed is commonly included in protocols for chronic lyme and immune support, kudzu leaves are edible, spinach-like, and certainly abundant, the plant provides an incredibly tough fiber for basket-weaving, and its nutritive, starchy root is an invaluable remedy for a number of physical issues, and mimosa flower goes into many mood-boosting formulas for its reputation as the serotonin-boosting 'happiness tree'. 

Princess Tree (Paulownia tomentosa) Flowers for Herbal Syrup

Princess tree (Paulownia tomentosa) flowers for herbal syrup

Beyond the Idea of Good Natives vs. Bad Invasives

The framing of the invasive plant issue can be as varied as "All non-natives are bad," (see this National Geographic article on the subject) to "...The blame for damage done by so-called invasive species lies with us, when we have created an imbalance that opens opportunities for new species to move in," (Toby Hemenway on Timothy Scott's fascinating book Invasive Plant Medicine, which I recommend)

Wildcrafting Wild Autumn Russian Olive Berries

Autumn/Russian Olive berries (Eleagnus spp.)

The discussion on invasives vs. natives in the realm of modern herbal medicine gets complicated and nuanced quickly, with issues of sustainable wildcrafting and plant population control coming to the forefront. The average herbalist wouldn't dare refer to beloved plantain (which was known as 'English-man's foot' to indigenous Americans) or dandelion as invasive or consider eliminating them from the apothecary because they had origins somewhere other than North America.

To the contrary, the two weeds are present in some form in almost every materia medica and in the majority of apothecaries, mirroring their prevalence throughout the planet. The complexities of invasives vs. natives in the ecosystem are immense and this doesn't even touch on the philosophical lessons that invasive plants might hold for humanity: resilience, adaptability, and thriving under difficult circumstances, to name a few. Invasive plants are scrappy and tenacious to the core - qualities that will become more and more prized as we deal with a changing planet. One thing is becoming clear, though: the hard line between the invasives and the native plans is becoming blurred. 

Conventional wisdom tells us that invasive species are unwanted and insidious. But the landscape is changing; in a warming world, it is becoming increasingly challenging to define what is native and what is not. There is even an area of study within integration biology which looks at the relationship invasive and native plants have with each other. Opportunistic plants offer us the chance to respect them for what they are, appreciate the role they play, receive what they offer, and reimagine how to do this while also preserving and sustaining our native plants. This is their own unique medicine, whether you make it into an herbal tincture (as in Japanese knotweed or kudzu) or not (check out this NY Times article 'Invasives Aren't Always Unwanted' for more). 

Multiflora Wild Rose Glycerite Syrup Herbal Remedy Medicine Making

Making wild rose glycerite from multiflora roses (Rosa multiflora)

Why Harvesting and Using Invasive Plants as Herbal Remedies Helps Balance the Ecosystem

We promote the harvesting and use of medicinally and nutritionally valuable plants and herbs, regardless of where they originate from. Often, the appropriate use of invasives such as multiflora rose blossoms or hips or autumn olive berries can help to control, deter, and diminish their populations by preventing them from seeding or spreading further (since these hips/berries are their reproductive organs). When we harvest wild multiflora rosehips for tea, preserves, or for our award-winning Carolina Bitters digestive formula, or pick autumn olive berries as an antioxidant-rich wild snack or pie filling, we effectively reduce their chances of reseeding themselves with those particular fruits, which may give native botanicals in the area a better chance to hold their own and resist the invasive takeover.

Wild Autumn Olive Tart

Wild Autumn Olive (Eleagnus spp.) tart 

Despite their poor reputation amongst gardeners, invasives do have value when considered part of the larger ecological web. The Albizia julibrissin tree was originally introduced to the US as an ornamental from Asia and adapts well to most soils. When we harvest the stunningly gorgeous mimosa flower and bark to make our grief-supportive and mood-optimizing Mimosa Elixir, we will often drop a branch - which may help reign in the growth of the tree - or gather blooms from a specimen that is about to be cut down or trimmed anyway. Sustainably wildcrafting the blossoms - while, of course, leaving some for pollinators and other people to enjoy - means that we are reducing the self-seeding ability of the tree and therefore future populations of mimosa, while increasing the ability of native trees to thrive. 

What can be done to control the widespread growth of exotic invasives while also helping our precious native (often woodland growing) herbal remedies such as lobelia, yellowroot, Solomon's seal, and black cohosh to thrive? Eating the weeds is a good start. We never promote the cultivation or spreading of invasive plants because their vigor and growth speed has the potential to destroy the native species that make our region of western North Carolina so special and among the most botanically diverse bioregions in the world. But we are long-time purveyors of the Frank Cook (Plants and Healers International) mantra, "Eat something wild everyday," and many of the most sought-after greens in our foraged salads are wild mustard, dandelion, plantain, and garlic mustard. Top that with some blackberries and you have yourself a fully invasive salad. 

Another practice we can all do is essentially 'find and replace'. If on your outdoor adventures you see young multiflora rose, Japanese honeysuckle, oriental bittersweet, privet, Japanese barberry, or Russian olive species which are going to choke out the native botanicals at the woods' edge or in the deep forest, pull out a few of these invasives and plant a seedling of goldenseal, ginseng, bloodroot, or black cohosh in their place. Jeannie loves to do this while giving her goats the opportunity to walk with her and munch down some of these exotic invasives as they will eat whatever she pulls for them. 

Weaving Making Kudzu Baskets Indigneous Basketry

Weaving traditional kudzu baskets at Red Moon Herbs with the incredible teacher Nancy Basket

True Sustainability Through Education, Plant Saves, and Seed Spreading

Perhaps the deepest thread that runs through our 26-year history as a small herb company is that of protecting and spreading seeds of native plant populations. We do plant rescues and saves in which we transplant native medicinals from areas where they would otherwise be eradicated by development. We promote the awareness and use of ginseng leaf which is undervalued yet as or more potent than ginseng root. We share traditional wild-tending strategies such as re-planting pieces ginseng and Solomon's seal roots and planting the berries/seeds before harvesting. We pride ourselves on being leaders in the seed-spreading revolution. 

Intrigued with the subject and looking for more? For further reading, check out the thoroughly researched book Invasive Plant Medicine: The Ecological Benefits and Healing Abilities of Invasives. Look into Ann Armbrecht's work on the Sustainable Herbs Project. Support your hyper-local or as-local-as-possible organic and biodynamic farmers, wildcrafters, and herbalists and know your herb sources and #whomakesyourmedicine. And as always, join us in supporting the work of United Plant Savers to conserve and protect our precious native medicinal plants.